KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD as the Island of the Gods, Bali is at the centre of a two thousand mile-long Indonesian archipelago. It is an arrestingly beautiful land of lush forests, volcanic mountains, shimmering rice paddies and coral reefs. Equatorial blooms catch the light like jewels and iridescent butterflies become what the poet Maupassant called “flying flowers”. If ever there was a real Treasure Island, this is it.
While tourism has steadily increased around Bali’s cultural hub Ubud, the island remains a refuge for those seeking peace, privacy and beauty. Tucked away on the southwestern coast, joining the mainland to the Bukit Peninsula, Jimbaran Bay is just such a place. This sheltered arc of white sand offers an invitation to re-tune one’s internal radio. Turn the dial to the soothing sound of the ocean. Bali’s evening chorus is one of crickets chirping and frogs singing. At dawn, you’ll hear what Gilbert describes affectionately as a “tropical birdsong competition”.
Bali is a Hindu enclave among Indonesia’s Muslim islands. The faith found its way here when the Hindu royal family fled Java, following an uprising in the 16th century.Gilbert explains, “It is not a wild exaggeration when people say that everyone in Bali is the descendent of either a king, a priest or an artist, and that is why the Balinese have such pride and brilliance.”
Balinese spirituality offers a unique blend of Hinduism with Buddhism ancient customs, associated with the gods of the ocean and the mountains. With colourful flowers and incense, Balinese rituals celebrate nature in a particularly joyful way. You’ll see fruit and flower-petal offerings everywhere here, not just in the many temples on the island. Spirituality is a part of everyday life, as is the deep bond with nature. In Bali, you’ll see men in silk sarongs with flowers tucked behind their ears.
The Balinese cottages at Jimbaran Puri are constructed from natural materials, so the retreat has the feel of a traditional fishing village. Those who first visited Bali decades ago, before it really opened to the world, have remarked that this unique place ‘brings back the Bali feeling’. As such, it is the perfect place to practice yoga, meditation and tai chi.
Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga. It considers the body, mind and soul as functioning together. Its holistic health applications work with nature to bring you back into balance, and they’re offered at Jimbaran Puri’s acclaimed beachfront spa. Among the most heavenly treatments is Shirodhara, where a constant tiny stream of warm oil is poured on the third eye (around the forehead) to clear stress. Those seeking deep relaxation can receive a traditional Balinese body massage, featuring long strokes and skin rolling. Or how about a facial, using finely ground Bali coffee and volcanic pumice from the sacred Mount Agung? Each treatment will be freshly prepared for you, depending on exactly what you need.
As the renowned Ayurvedic teacher Maya Tiwari has observed, “We are wellness. We are consciousness.” As such, taking care of ourselves with the goal of greater understanding is a spiritual practice in itself. Cooking is a big part of this. Our cookery classes, including a visit to the famous local fish market, are always popular. You may even learn to make Bali’s most popular dish, Sambal Mitah, made with spicy shallot, torch ginger and lemongrass.
The great teaching of Bali is that yes, you do deserve something beautiful—and you deserve something that stays with you, wherever you go. “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort,” reflects Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. “You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. And once you have achieved a state of happiness… you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” Go to Bali. Find your bliss. And keep it in your heart like a flower.